Archives for posts with tag: health

We are inundated today with more information than we could ever use, if we ever decided to use information. It’s more information than we could ever understand, particularly when it comes to food.

At restaurants, we are told where the chickens were raised, who grew the kohlrabi and whether the lemongrass has been arrested for smoking grass. But for those of us who prefer less information, who remember eating before it became a spelling and pronunciation test, there are problems even when we eat at home.

Every food now has a Nutrition Facts label, mainly designed so we can worry about whether we’re taking in too much sodium or not enough unsaturated fat. We read and wonder, will this be good for our gout or bad for our goiter? Are we getting just the right amount of carbs or too much riboflavin? Why no Vitamin C but all that unnecessary zinc?

We scan to check out how much magnesium our Hershey’s almond-nut-bar is providing, and what percentage of our daily need for magnesium that is, even if we don’t understand what magnesium is.

Of course, these facts are totally useless, unless you really do want to know how much magnesium is in your Hershey’s almond-nut bar if that’s a factor in considering whether you should switch to the Nestle’s banana-pomegranate bar.

What we need are Nutrition Facts we could really use. Here are some.

Serving size: Not nearly enough.

When you’re really hungry, let’s admit it: you don’t actually care that much about cardiovascular disease. You don’t focus on diabetes. You’re not concerned that what you’re eating may make your nails turn purple. You just want a really large pretzel. Or three. If they come with chips and melted cheese, even better.

Calories per serving: Not applicable.

We all understand that it’s important to limit the number of calories we take in each day. According to numbers from the U.S. Department of Numbers, on an average day the average person should take in an average of 2,000 calories. But that doesn’t include the age bonus! For every additional five years you’ve lived, you get an extra 5,000 calories. If you’ve not had hernia surgery during those years, add 2,500 more.

The 2,000 figure also doesn’t include any days in the past when you took in fewer than 2,000 calories. Like when you had the flu or fell asleep on a transatlantic flight. Or when you had the flu on a transatlantic flight and infected the people sitting next to you. You’re entitled to those calories. They owe you. Be sure to collect.

Total Fat: 22 percent of daily value.

The way I interpret this, it means you can still eat 78 percent more fat. The good news is that it’s early and there are still more Ruffles in the pantry.

Saturated fat: 80 grams.

You don’t have to worry about this because no one born before 1970 really knows what a gram is and several state legislatures are considering banning them as un-American.

Sodium: 720 grams.

The National Institutes of Health recently found that the right amount of sodium may either be good or bad for your health or maybe somewhere in between. Or as they finally determined, in a meta-analysis of other analyses, who really knows?

The NIH, however, does now recommend that people above the age of 50 who are on a low-sodium diet should stop trying to remember how really good those French fries were.

Dietary fiber: 14 percent of daily value.

As we all know, fiber can help lower cholesterol, improve heart health and keep us regular, although it does tend to stick in your teeth. It is particularly important as our metabolism changes and we lose most of our teeth. Fiber can be found in whole grains, legumes and old cardboard boxes that you’ve kept in the storage shed for reasons you no longer remember. Legumes, incidentally, can be found in the legume section of your supermarket.

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If we want to stay healthy, exercising isn’t enough. We also have to watch what we eat and drink. No more diets full of Doritos, cheap beer and other essential nutrients.

We have to start eating foods that help us ward off cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, arthritis and memory … yes, right, lapses. There are foods that can boost our immune system, prevent cancer and help us deal with tennis elbow even if we’ve never played tennis and get our cardio exercise from Words With Friends.

These are called superfoods. We have given them this name because Doritos was already taken. Here’s the list of what they are and what they can do for you.

Blueberries: They are rich in antioxydants, which will help fight off any oxydants that try to robo call you at home after 9 p.m. Blueberries also boast flavonoids, which may help prevent heart attacks by scaring them off with such a scary word.

Dark chocolate: Consuming a small amount of dark chocolate — at least 70 percent or dark enough when it melts to ruin your new white shirt or blouse — can boost memory if you can remember where you’ve hidden the chocolate so your partner can’t find it.

Asparagus: This is a vegetable high in lycopene, which has been found to protect the spleen, pancreas and other weird internal organs against libel suits filed by jilted email correspondents. It also can help reduce the risk of seeing your life being made into a Lifetime TV movie of the week.

Apples: Full of soluble fiber, apples help reduce cholesterol. That’s the bad cholesterol, obviously. Probably. Or maybe they increase the good cholesterol. Or it’s possible they make the bad cholesterol into the good cholesterol by dissolving some of it in those little snack boxes of apple sauce.

Broccoli: Broccoli is high in vitamins such as A, C, B9, B52, C3PO and R2D2. That means your eyes, red blood cells, bones and tissues all benefit from this vegetable as long as they don’t have to eat it.

Butternut squash: This is a vegetable that brims with beta-carotene, which is important for crossword puzzle clues, as long as the missing word is more than seven letters and begins with a B. In addition, it also offers a healthy amount of potassium, which helps you find emory boards during those physically stressful moments when you have a hangnail.

Fava beans: Low in fat, low in sodium and low in flavor, these beans have plenty of manganese and iron, which is what probably makes them taste so awful. Their inability to be easily digested will help keep your weight down.

Coffee: This beverage is full of folate, thiamin and riboflavin, also known as the three stooges of nutrition. The National Institutes of Health has found that people who drink two cups a day of coffee were 32 percent more likely to need the restroom when the time came to split the check, thus greatly helping their financial health.

Red wine: A glass a day of red wine can help protect against those pompous chardonnay drinkers who want to talk to you about their recent river cruise down the Loire Valley.

If you want to lose weight, there’s always the option of eating less. Of course, that may be too complicated a solution for many of us who want to see quick results, like losing eight pounds before going out for dinner tonight with friends we haven’t seen since high school.

Instead, you could always follow one of these popular dieting plans:

The Atkins Diet. Named after the renowned guitarist Chet Atkins, this diet requires you to try to eat while you are also trying to remember the chord progression of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Nutritionally speaking, this is like trying to tap your head, pat your tummy and solve a quadratic equation at the same time. You will become so frustrated trying to do it all you will give up food completely during this diet but still never be able to solve a quadratic equation.

The Low-Fat, High-Carb Diet. Whenever you sit down at the table, you divide your food into those with a minimal amount of fat, like celery stalks and facial tissues, which you put on the left. High-carb foods, like your Subaru’s carburetor, you put on the right. You stare at both piles, then you pull up pictures of Twinkies on your smartphone and begin to salivate, thus losing water-weight gain.

The High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet. This is exactly like what the Low-Fat, High-Carb Diet feels like when it is staring in the mirror.

The South Beach Diet. Spend all the time you would normally devote to eating on walking south on the beach and scorching your toes on burning hot sand. This will keep your mind off Twinkies, unless you happen to step on a discarded Twinkie wrapper. For dietary variety, step on some jagged sea shells, which will take your mind off your scorched toes.

The Mediterranean Diet. On this diet, you are allowed to only eat highly seasoned water that has been imported directly from the Mediterranean and put in an expensive bottle that you might be able to dangle from your belt loop. The premium version of the diet includes an all-expenses-paid trip to Greece and a stay at an AirBnB where the hosts are impossibly thin and extra virgin.

The Paleo Diet. The idea behind this diet is that if you could hunt and gather it, you can eat it. That means yes to meats, fruits and veggies, but no to Devil Dogs, caramel popcorn and Good ‘n’ Plenty, unless you have a license to hunt Good ‘n’ Plenty during the fall breeding season.

Remember, no cereal grains, legumes, dairy and potatoes on this diet, which makes it difficult. But while research isn’t conclusive, one small study has found that after three weeks on this diet subjects had dropped an average of five pounds, mainly by tearing their hair out.

The Good ‘n’ Plenty Diet. For breakfast, eat the white ones first, then the pink ones. Then for lunch, work in the opposite direction, balancing your intake. For dinner, gobble them both up at the same time.  You may not lose weight, but you’ll make your dentist happy.

 

Recently, I wrote about the importance of exercise and how if we want to both live longer and live better, we have to exercise even if it kills us. I noted that this is particularly true for anyone getting older, which research has shown appears to be most of us.

In fact, according to a new study published in either The Lancet or Teen People, aging patients who met the guidelines of at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week found that they did not have to wear East Williamsburg hipster fedoras to appear to be younger and hipper.

But I failed to explain exactly what moderate exercise is.

Well, to begin with, we need to take 10,000 steps a day. To break that down into specifics, it means that every minute of the day we must take at least 6.95 steps, even if we are sleeping, eating or reading studies published in Teen People.

To get even healthier and fitter, we also should aim for 30 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity four or five days a week as well as 72 minutes of figuring out what aerobic means, 24 minutes determining how to spell it and 19 minutes of deciding whether feverish manipulating of the remote control qualifies.

Aerobic exercise, which is sometimes known as cardio and occasionally known as Bob, is technically exercise that requires pumping of oxygenated blood by the heart to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Aerobic exercises, for example, would be jogging, swimming or screaming at the television set during a presidential press conference. In other words, it’s exercise that makes you gasp and unable to finish a sent … .

But to be truly fit, cardio isn’t enough. We also need strength training. We need to build up our muscle mass and get stronger so that when we are doing our cardio it doesn’t hurt as much. Also, weight-training helps you lose weight by increasing your metabolism which is the little neurological system inside you that regulates your metabols.

The question is, how do you fit all this essential physical activity into an already busy day?  There are ways.

  • Set your alarm early. Get up at 1 a.m. You can do this if you go to bed at 3 in the afternoon while making believe you are sending out work emails.
  • Turn your commute into a workout. If you are driving, whenever you come to a red light, get out of the car, run around your vehicle twice and then if the traffic has moved on, get into someone else’s car and ask them to drop you at the office. This also has social benefits.
  • Exercise at work. Instead of sitting immobile staring at a monitor, every 15 minutes reach your arms above your head, stretch out your feet and recite the prologue to the Canterbury Tales. This will work your arms, your legs and your olde English.
  • Sneak in a workout during your lunch break. Order a very large pastrami sandwich. Lift it over your head five times. Rest. Lift the pickle.
  • Multitask. While exercising, think of stopping.

Welcome to your personal patient portal, created by your physician to give you digital access to all your medical records while scaring the bejeezus out of you.

On our home page, you will first find your health summary and a list of all your past medical conditions, even if you continue to insist that you never had chicken pox and it was just allergies. You will be able to discover that despite vowing to give up high fructose corn syrup 11 years ago, you’ve still got the profile of a pretty sick puppy.

You also will find on the home page all the diseases you are likely to contract over the next couple of weeks, particularly if you will be on an airplane sitting next to someone who is sneezing. And you will be sitting next to someone who is sneezing. (We are not counting as serious symptoms here that pain you sometimes feel just above your right hip or that sound in your chest you think you hear every time you swallow an avocado, assuming that both are just part of your excessive hypochondria. We are pretty sure neither pain is a sign of incipient mad cow disease.)

On the right side of the page are listed your current diagnoses, written in formal medicalese so you will be sure you actually have Ebola instead. These diagnoses include, but are not limited to:

Chiroptophobia

Fear of baseball bats

Pes planu

Hyperlepidoptera

When, in a panic, you look these conditions up, you will find out you have a fear of bats, a fear of baseball bats, fallen arches on both your feet and an excessive amount of butterflies.

Also on the home page will be your list of allergies. While you may not be allergic to all of the substances listed, frankly, why take a chance?

Now go to the page that lists your medications. In cases where it is applicable, we have used the incomprehensible generic name so you will have no idea if this is the medicine for your gout or for werewolf syndrome.

Continuing on, you will come to the results page, where you will find the results of all the tests you have taken, including the prostate exam, the cholesterol screening and the PSAT. The results of those exams are written in formulas like 2.3x10E3/uL, so good luck.

Next, click on the button that will take you to the page where you can ask your medical providers questions that they will not respond to. If the question is particularly urgent, make sure to get in touch with your friend Kim, the one who’s married to the cardiologist, before typing.

If you want to obtain a new prescription or refill an old prescription, go to the page that’s called “Prescriptions.” Do not go to the page that’s called “Treatments for Werewolf Syndrome.” You will note on this page that we do not do prescriptions through our patient portal.

A couple of years ago, I decided that I was going to try to run a half-marathon. I thought it would be a good test of my physical fitness, my determination, my perseverance and my utter cluelessness. It didn’t matter how old I was, I thought; I could be just as stupid as I used to be.

I never did run that half-marathon. I would like now to explain why.

First, I found out that a full marathon is indeed 26.2 miles long, or 26.1 miles longer than walking to the mailbox to get the mail. Second, I found out that a half-marathon is, in fact, half a marathon.

To get a better grasp of what that means: technically speaking, it’s 13.1 miles, 21.08 kilometers or, in England, 16.7 imperial liters. It’s a lot of liters. It is, in fact, the equivalent of running to the supermarket, then running back home, then finding out you didn’t buy anything at the supermarket and having to run all the way back, just for a loaf of bread.

And then it turns out the supermarket is closed. And that’s assuming that the bread was any good and the supermarket was only one state away, and mostly downhill.

In addition, I discovered, you can’t just run a half-marathon without preparation apparently. You need to train for it. I would have much preferred that meant I needed to book on Amtrak. But it turns out that means doing a lot of running even before you have to do a lot of running.

Yes, I know it seems unfair.

In particular, in training for a long race, you are supposed to start small and build up over time. I was fine with starting small. I was so fine with it, I stayed small.

You are supposed to slowly increase your mileage until running a half-marathon is as easy as going to the supermarket and buying a loaf of bread. We know how that turned out.

When I was training, after running about three or four miles I would begin to get that certain feeling you get, that runner’s high — you know, that moment when you are certain you are surely going to die.

My feet would swell, my legs would hurt, my back would ache and my breathing would be labored. It was sort of like when I’m watching a presidential press conference.

In addition, all that preparation to run a half-marathon takes a lot of time, and, frankly, I’m a very busy person. I have naps to take, emails from acquaintances to ignore, dishes in the sink not to wash. Sometimes, I have to spend whole days figuring out how many characters I have left when I want to tweet something.

But perhaps the most important reason I gave up on my half-marathon quest was that I found out I could just buy one of those “13.1” bumper stickers and not have to prove that I earned it.

The last time I had a really good night’s sleep was Nov. 4, 2009. It was terrific, although I may have been dreaming.

Since then, not so good. I sometimes go to bed too early, I sometimes get up too soon, I toss, I turn, I worry about the National Security Council while I should be snoring.

I blame it all on the mattress, mainly because my wife said I absolutely can’t blame it on her. And, in fact, it actually might be the mattress’ fault.

We’ve had this mattress since the early part of the century, and I’m not sure which century. It has a lot of miles on it, many lumps, several valleys, the occasional gorge and it argues with the pillows on a regular basis. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

When you turn over on this mattress, it creaks. When you don’t turn over, it creaks. When you look at it or talk to it, it creaks. Sometimes it whines, occasionally it comments online on news articles, generally using a fake Facebook account.

So we’ve decided it’s time to get a new mattress. To that end, we have been doing our research.

What we want, of course, is something simple — white, rectangular, feels good, no lumps, no online comments. But mattresses, it turns out, come in an overwhelming number of varieties, including pistachio.

You can get memory foam or latex foam, adjustable air or inner spring, pillow top or super pillow top, low calorie or high fructose. There are posturepedic and tempur-pedic, naturepedic, orthopedic, encyclopedic.

Really, we just want a plain pedic, as long as it doesn’t have lumps.

So we went out to the mattress store to narrow the choice down to just a couple of hundred possibilities.

But here’s the real problem with trying to check out and ultimately buy a mattress: it’s not like going to the supermarket and checking out a honeydew melon. You can’t just squeeze it or smell it or roll it down the supermarket aisle toward the lettuces.

The only way to decide on whether to buy a mattress is to make believe you’re sleeping on it.

You have to do this with your shoes on, while wearing your winter coat, in the middle of a brightly lit showroom, with lots of people around, music playing, with a sales person asking if he could get you a cup of coffee and with other customers making fun of your Hello Kitty jammies.

Nevertheless, we did it. We lay down on mattress after mattress. I liked the extra firm ones. My wife liked the extra soft ones. I preferred the Euro-Flex-Supreme. Her favorite was the Plush-Hybrid-Cushion-Firm.

We decided to buy a honeydew melon instead.

Before ordering from our sustainable, farm-to-table, locally sourced, seasonally focused, regionally based, hormone-free, slow-cooked, artisanal, low-sodium, high cholesterol, pan-Asian fusion menu, do you have any questions?

Yes, we can assure you, all our dishes are gluten-free. There is absolutely no extra cost for the gluten, although for parties of six or more, we do require an 18-percent cover charge, a 20-percent gratuity and no check-splitting.

No, none of our dishes have been produced on equipment that also may have been used to process products that might contain linguini. Do you think we’re nuts?

If you’re concerned about any lactose allergies, none of our products include lactose except for the milkshakes, the cheeses, the ice cream, any butter that’s on the table, our puddings, custards, creams, cheesecake and yes, our milk. We do offer, however, a number of lactose substitutes, such as Cheerios.

In addition, you’ll be relieved to know that no one on our wait staff is lactose intolerant. Some of their best friends, in fact, have milked a fixation with lactose for all its worth. They won’t ask and they won’t tell if lactose shows up unannounced and without a reservation, as long as it’s not Friday or Saturday nights.

For those of you who also have problems with soy products, oy.

However, if you do have a dairy allergy, we’d recommend against ordering most anything on the menu but particularly watch out for the egg salad on quinoa unless you’re sure about how to pronounce quinoa.

There is, though, no need to be concerned about our shellfish since it’s all humanely harvested, mainly because we could not get robots to do the work. The shellfish are locally sourced, as well, which wasn’t easy considering we are 120 miles from the coast, which is a long day trip, and it’s really difficult to find a weekend condo at the beach this time of year.

If you can’t eat meat, that’s not a problem because we do have a number of vegetarian options and a series of questions to determine if you’re not eating meat for philosophical reasons, dietary restrictions, humanitarian concerns, purely esthetic principles or if you’re just being really difficult. If it turns out you’re just being really difficult, we’ll keep asking if everything’s OK or if you want more water just when you start to chew.

Finally, for any of you worried about growing an extra eye in the middle of your forehead, particularly during the entree course, you’ll be happy to know that we only use GMOs when we have run out of BBQ and BLT from our local GNC.

Do you have any more questions? Or would you like a few more minutes before you decide what you’re allowed to eat?

 

Welcome to the gym. All around you can see sleek, powerful and highly effective exercise machines designed to strengthen you, firm you up and remind you of the Spanish Inquisition.

Each of these machines targets a particular area of your body that you somehow may not already have abused by accident. These machines will help you achieve all your fitness goals, including losing weight, toning your torso and figuring out what BMI means.

It’s important to use these machines correctly, so you only hurt one part of your body at a time. So let’s take a look at each of the exercise machines, and learn how to use them, what they can do and whether your health insurance will pay for the damage.

With the lat pull-down/chest extension/leg curl, first choose your weight and sit on the machine with your legs under the pad (feet pointed forward, teeth clenched, brain terrified) and hands holding the side bars with mouth rounded to better allow you to scream. This will be your starting position.

Remember, if the angle of your elbow is less than 90-degrees, that means your ulna is already dislocated and you should go to the emergency room as soon as possible, or after you do 10 reps, whichever comes first.

For the triceps extension/sealed dip/abdominal crunch, make sure that you adjust the knee pad of the machine to fit your height and prevent you from flying across the gym floor and into the sauna before you’ve requested a towel.

Grab the bar with the palms facing forward using the prescribed grip. If you haven’t already gotten a prescription for the grip, see your healthcare provider. Have both arms extended in front of you holding the bar at the chosen grip width, then bring your torso back around 30 degrees until you hear something crack. Exhale.

The hip abductor/triceps press/pec fly takes your hips and flies them to Brooklyn, where they can work the triceps by making artisanal pickles. During your reps, the upper torso should remain stationary, the lower torso should be frozen in fear and only the arms should move while you whimper.

With the biceps curl/lateral raise/pec fly/seated chest contortioner, you always need to remember to breathe out when you bring the bar down until it touches your upper chest before shouting for help. This machine will work your pecs, your delts, your glutes and any other muscle groups with whom you are on a first name basis.

If you do not know your delts from your glutes, be careful while putting on your pants.

When using the shoulder hoist/leg press/triceps twirl/lateral raise, you will need to adjust the pad so that it falls on top of your lower leg (just above the scar from the hip abductor/triceps press/pec fly). Also, make sure that your legs form a 90-degree angle so you can get up from the machine quickly before it comes crashing down.

On the other hand, you could take our Zumba class.

To me — or rather, to my body, with whom I’m in semi-regular contact — it’s still yesterday evening at 9:41. On the other hand, it may actually be 4:31 a.m. tomorrow. That’s if today is Monday. Or maybe it’s Wednesday.

Actually, I’m not quite sure what day it is. That’s because I’m still suffering from jet lag.

I recently returned from a long-distance trip across a dozen time zones, which forced me to change my watch 12 separate times and eat breakfast again and again since it continued to be morning somewhere. While the Cheerios were OK and the turkey bacon was fine, though it doesn’t get as crisp as you would like, the jet lag isn’t.

Technically speaking, jet lag is desynchronosis or, among friends, circadian dysrhythmia. That is, it’s a condition with many syllables that no one really understands or can do anything about. It causes fatigue, difficulty concentrating and irritability. It also has some negative impacts.

You go to bed at the wrong time. You wake up at the wrong time. You do your laundry when you still have some clean pants left. You sometimes think you’re in Cincinnati. And worst of all, you can’t find your sunglasses even though they are on top of your head.

In other words, jet lag is pretty much like regular life, just someplace else and at a different time.

Despite wide-ranging research that didn’t harm any animals during testing and didn’t actually come up with any results, there are no real cures for jet lag. There are, however, many suggestions on how to avoid or best deal with it. I have tried them all.

You are supposed to set your watch to the time at your destination in an attempt to re-orient your circadian rhythms even if you couldn’t find your circadian rhythms and had probably left them at the office.

This worked, sort of. My watch wasn’t tired at all by the time I got to my destination. In fact, the minutes kept challenging the seconds to a game of beach volleyball. I, on the other hand, who has never had much rhythm and can’t clap to the beat, even if it’s a slow song, was exhausted.

You are supposed to change your sleep routine in advance of travel.

I did this. Instead of falling asleep late and getting up too early, I fell asleep too early and got up even earlier. I also alternated pillows.

Still exhausted.

It is suggested that you take melatonin, which is a natural supplement that is so natural it is gluten-free and doesn’t include even a smidgen of kale. It is made of air and a little bit of light. It is supposed to naturally help adjust the body’s natural clock, mainly by pressing the natural hour button four times and then hitting, naturally, defrost.

I took two pills yesterday evening. Or maybe that was today. On the other hand, it could have been tomorrow.